But It’ll Be Worth It

That old house smell, created from a cold, dark basement and walls that have stood for over 108 years, has been temporarily displaced. When I walk in the back door of my house in Potlatch, I breathe in fresh paint, wood shavings, and progress. The house has stood empty for almost a year now and I’m longing to walk in the back door, lay my keys on the little table – which doesn’t currently exist – and say to no one but God, “I’m home.”

Before moving back to my “happy place” I need to make a few changes. With a teeny-tiny budget and a willingness to work hard, I started on the kitchen. The cabinets and drawers are all the originals, handmade, and in really great shape, except for a few corners eaten away by a very large puppy with a bit of separation anxiety. Despite their sturdiness, the cabinets and drawers needed a face lift, so I’m adding shaker-style trim, bead board wallpaper, fresh white paint and new hardware. The backsplash and counters were beyond retro – old, old, old linoleum with a metal trim. The pattern on the linoleum was fading and thinning in small patches and long past being lovely. It’s been replaced by faux-brick hardwood primed and soon-to-be painted glossy white to look like subway tile. The flooring – an ugly, gray linoleum with a felt and tar backing – covers hardwood floors. Uncovering the hardwood is not within my skill set so I’ve opted for painting and stenciling it back to life.

There’s a limited amount of DIY experience in my skill portfolio: drilling holes, using a tile saw, tiling, hanging drywall, mudding and taping, painting, and demolition. In the last few weeks, I’ve learned how to use a jig saw, a nail gun, a random orbital hand sander, and a miter saw. The tool area of Home Depot is my new favorite place. I’ve graduated from a tool drawer to a real tool box, left behind by the previous owner of the house. Thank you, Mr. Bailey.

This project has provided lots of alone time: time for reflection and inspection. The last few months have been emotionally overwhelming and this small escape has helped me to stay sane and focused on serving God. Kitchen renovating is a lot like helping broken people. You gently tear away the old surface, wash away all the dirt and grime, sand all the rough parts, prime the surface, do some more sanding, prime again, and sand again. Cleaning, priming and sanding ensures that the new coat of paint will stick and last. If you hurry the process and don’t leave enough time for the paint to cure, or you leave out any steps, there’s a good chance you’ll have to start over or, even worse, spend years looking at peeling paint – wishing you’d done it right the first time. Hopefully, you’ll learn from your mistakes.

I’ve spent quite a few years helping to repair broken people but I’m still not an expert. Each person comes with their own set of problems and they often don’t want to remove their old surface to expose the cracks and areas that have been damaged by hurt and pain. Instead they choose to slap a smile and a new vocabulary on the surface and continue to hide behind layers of old stuff and just pretend they’re new. Life has a way of testing our durability and if you’re unwilling to be primed and sanded by a loving God, through accountability to His people, you will face some tough challenges which you won’t be strong enough to withstand.

I am thankful for Laura Storm and the Saturday afternoons she spends with me on this kitchen project. We are more than DIY buddies – I am accountable to her and she knows the best and worst of me. I am thankful to Matt Becker who always finds a way to point out the areas in my life that need to be sanded. Thank you, Bekah, for teaching me how to use the miter saw.

I sit on the kitchen floor admiring the progress. The drawers stand in a row awaiting the next step. They have new trim, the cracks are caulked and now they need to be sanded, primed, sanded, primed, sanded, painted, sanded, painted, sealed, and accessorized with new hardware. The cabinet doors lean against the wall, from biggest to smallest, awaiting new bead board and trim, layers of primer and paint, intermittent sanding, and cabinet jewelry.

Soon, very soon, my kitchen will be a more lovely place. It’s going to take more work than I once anticipated, but it’ll be worth it. Similarly, my relationship with Jesus is a huge project filled with little details and many do-overs. I can’t imagine a life without Him and I am so thankful He writes people in to my story that leave a dent, shake my foundation, and cause me to run to Him for comfort. This is life and loving people hurts. A little bit of sanding, some time to cure, and I’ll be good as new.

Somewhere Between Here and There

“When I find the perfect house,” I said with a wink, “I’ll sell my house in Potlatch and move to Moscow.” Of course, I didn’t believe I would find it, so there was little need to be concerned.

I invited my real estate agent, Teri Skiles, to come and see my house. I showed her all my favorite parts: the kitchen, the bathroom, the closet, the garage, the basement, and all the charm that comes with an old house. Basically, I love every part of the house and I’m finding it very difficult to leave. I said, “Find me something like this and I’ll be a happy girl.”

A few days later we were sitting in her office and I had just finished signing paperwork. “I know you said you didn’t want to see any more houses until you sold yours,” Teri said rather sheepishly, “but I may have found the perfect house for you.” And she did. It has everything I want and more.

This time around, I’m uncharacteristically calm about the whole situation. Finally, after way too many years, I’ve learned to let go of the wheel and trust that God is in control. Maybe it’s because I’ve been encouraged by Alice Miller’s faith, maybe it’s because I’m older, or maybe it’s because it’s the right thing to do.

The offer was accepted. The loan was approved. Please pray that my house will sell, I’ll find the time to pack, and that this part of the story will bring glory to God. Somewhere between here and there…I’m thankful and looking forward to a change.

Excuse Me, Sir?

My Mom and I made an early morning run to Home Depot to pick up more paint. We had time to wait and I couldn’t help but look at all the tools painters use…aisles of stuff hanging on pegs and tucked into to cubby holes. I’m dying to get my hands on a paint sprayer; however, I’m smart enough to know it would not be a pretty sight. Perhaps someone would let me practice in a room where nothing could be damaged.

To my surprise, the paint I had purchased three years ago was no longer available in its original form. Well, I wasn’t totally surprised – just not quite ready for plan “b.” Thankfully, I brought the can with me and the oh-so helpful guy with the orange apron mixed me up a huge 5-gallon bucket. He heaved the bucket into the orange cart and we were on our way.

As we made out way to parking lot, after leaving my left cornea as payment for the giant bucket of paint, I realized there was no way I could lift the bucket out of the orange cart. My Mom’s been working out at the gym, but she wasn’t going to be much help. I told my Mom I was going to ask someone for help.

In a breathy voice I said, “Wow. You made that look so easy. Thank you, Sir. Thank you very much.” He chuckled, smiled and then walked back to his giant truck.

The unsuspecting man was rearranging the stuff in his truck so he could unload his orange cart. The guy looked pretty big, so I didn’t think he’d have any difficulty with my 5-gallon bucket. I said, “Excuse me, Sir? Would it be possible for you to help me move this bucket in to my car?” He looked at his cart, looked at the parking lot, and walked over to help.

As the guy got closer his body got bigger. He was tall as a sequoia and just as wide. He was a freakin’ Paul Bunyan. Even before he lifted the bucket from the basket I was in love. He put his hands on the bucket like it was a teacup and without using his arm or back muscles – or making any heaving sounds – he lifted the bucket in to the back of my car. In a breathy voice I said, “Wow. You made that look so easy. Thank you, Sir. Thank you very much.” He chuckled, smiled and then walked back to his giant truck. I had to fight the urge to run after him and throw my arms around his legs and beg him to come to my house and fix things and paint in high places. My Mom was with me…so I edited my thoughts.

When I went to lift the bucket out of the car, I tried to use the same lifting method he did and the bucket wouldn’t budge. I finally gave up and used the stupid handle and walked the bucket in to the house. It’s official. I want one of those in my house. And I’m not talking about the bucket.

You Missed The Painting Party

Only one person R.S.V.P.’d to my painting party. God Bless Patricia! She flew out from Santa Rosa, CA., to vacation in sunny Potlatch. And what a vacation she’s having.

Oh…and my Mom came by to visit. She provided a ladder, packing materials, and entertainment while we worked.

Anyway, Pat climbs the ladder and paints the high places, and she paints the ceiling, and the walls. What, you may ask, am I doing? Well, she has the roller and I’m using a brush on the moulding. And my house has an abundance of moulding. Small moulding at the top, big moulding on the bottom, and medium-sized moulding on the windows and doors. I’m just sayin’…I’m working, too. I’m not convinced this is how you spell moulding, but Pat says it is and I want to keep her happy.

We’re using an oil-based paint on the walls, because they’re lathe and plaster stuck together with seven layers of wallpaper. If you take down the wallpaper you have to deal with crumbling plaster. And, water based paint make the wallpaper saggy. It just so happens that the oil-based paint is odor free. It’s my water-based, trim, paint that’s smelly. But it looks beautiful…so I’m a happy girl.

It turns out the biggest room we’re painting is the hallway (shown above). It has the most wall space – four full walls and seven (7) eight (8) – if you count the closet – doors. With moulding. And may I just say that doors are not my friends. Needless to say, I foolishly left them for last. I should have knocked them out first and just gotten it over with. That’s why you can still see the ugly, green doors the previous owners left me. You think that’s bad? You should have seen the green wall paper. And for the record, I prefer satin trim paint rather than super, duper, glossy paint shining on the door.

Two rooms down…two to go. Pat’s leaving on Sunday and I’ll have plenty left to do after she’s gone, but we’re getting the difficult part done now. For instance, the walls and ceilings all need color. Thankfully, I have a few friends who have volunteered to help me. But that’s for another day. Right now, Pat and I are having too much fun.

This painting project is supported by many small cans of Mountain Dew (Pat’s beverage of choice) and large glasses of 1/2 iced tea, 1/2 lemonade (mine).

Never Say Never

I love change. Change is good. I could have written the book Who Moved My Cheese?. The more years I accumulate in my lifetime, the more I appreciate the beauty of change. And so it’s no surprise when every now and then I wake-up and realize I’m ready for another.

I love my house. It’s old but charming and sturdy. I loved it more when the Joneses lived next door. When Magnus chased people out of the yard. When people who looked like me came to visit. I’d planned to live here until the mortgage is paid off, but when my middle name is change, it’s not totally unpredictable that I’m thinking of moving.

My house in Potlatch is 17 miles from Moscow. It’s not “on the way” or “right around the corner” from the people I love…and who love me. I never hear the words, “I thought I’d drop in,” any more. *sigh* And, it doesn’t help that a barrel of oil now costs a left cornea and a first born child.

In San Diego, a seventeen mile drive is ridiculously close to everything. There are probably two Targets, fourteen Starbucks, and nine In & Out Burgers in a twenty mile radius. I’m still having a difficult time adjusting to the perceived “distance” from Moscow to Potlatch. I make the drive twice a day – but most folks think they have to pack a lunch to make the trip. Granted, there is *nothing* between here and there. Well, except pine trees and large bambi-like animals.

I’m just saying, if the people won’t come to me…I’ll have to find a house near the people.

The thought of *just* tossing all my worldly goods in to the back of a pick-up truck makes me throw up a little in my mouth. I confess, I am a meticulous mover. First I have to go to the basement and dust off the rows of paint cans and figure out which one goes where. I have the paint…just not enough motivation to actually do it. The next step is purging the stuff that’s accumulated in nooks and crannies all over the house. Said with my hands on my hips and my neckbones snapping, “I do not need all this stuff.”

And then…I pack. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING must be in a box. With tape. And labels. Or a garbage bag. With labels.

And then…I put my house on the market and look for one in Moscow. A small house. I’m making the list and praying for my next house. All I’m saying is, I love my house. I’m not completely ready to leave it, and I intend to wait until the right one comes along. There’s nothing worse than moving in and being miserable for the rest of your life. Are we still talking about houses?

Anyway, pray for me. It’ll take me about a year to get it all done. Unless of course you want to RSVP to the painting & purging party – then we can get this show on the road a lot sooner.

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